A 40-year-old Georgian named Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen commander and separatist, was shot twice in the head while on his way to a mosque in Berlin on August 23, 2019, according to reports.
According to a joint probe by investigative website Bellingcat, The Insider and Germany's Der Spiegel, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) trained and guided and helped the alleged assassin. Bellingcat named the suspect as Vadim Krasikov, a Russian national.
"We have determined that essential support for the operation... was provided directly by the FSB," Bellingcat reported on Monday.
According to the probe, shortly before the killing Krasikov, 54, was in frequent contact via telephone with Eduard Bendersky, the leader of a Russian special forces veterans’ association called “Vympel”.
"Bendersky and Krasikov spoke by phone at least 20 times in the period of February-August 2019," Bellingcat said.
Vympel is allegedly closely tied to "Department V", a counter-terrorism unit of the FSB. Department V has its roots in a Soviet unit, also called Vympel, which, among other things, was tasked with carrying out assassinations abroad, Bellingcat reported.
The probe also said that Krasikov’s phone connected eight times to the cell tower at the FSB's Special Operations Centre outside Moscow, four times to a tower at a Spetsnaz training base, and twice to one close to an FSB anti-terrorist centre.
According to Bellingcat, Krasikov also called three people, "all current or former members of Department V," in the weeks before the killing.
A week before the murder the suspected killer, using a Russian passport under the name of Vadim Sergeyevich Sokolov, flew from Moscow to Paris and then arrived in Warsaw three days later, Poland’s onet.pl news website has reported.
Investigators believe it was in Warsaw that the Russian obtained a Glock 26 pistol equipped with a silencer, the murder weapon with which he later shot Khangoshvili in Berlin, onet.pl reported last year.
The Polish website has reported that the August 23 murder in broad daylight in the German capital may have been motivated politically.
Police managed to capture the suspected killer, and they also found the murder weapon—a gun that he threw into the Spree River, which flows through central Berlin.
Germany expelled two Russian embassy workers amid suspicion that Russia was behind the Berlin murder, the dw.com news website has reported.
Moscow has denied any involvement, according to dw.com.